CAIRO, Egypt – A tape said to have been recorded by terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) condemns the new government in Baghdad and claims the killing of fellow Muslims is justified in attacks against U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces.
"God ordered us to attack the infidels by all means ... even if armed infidels and unintended victims — women and children — are killed together," the speaker said. "The priority is for jihad so anything that slows down jihad should be overcome."
The defense of the deadly attacks could be a recruiting tactic aimed at Sunni Arabs who initially didn't sympathize with the insurgency because of the deaths of innocents. The speaker claimed that top religious scholars have repeatedly sanctioned homicide bombings.
The audiotape, posted on the Internet, is believed to be the first from the Jordanian-born militant since the new Iraqi government was put in place in early May. In the past weeks, Al Qaeda in Iraq (search) — the group led by al-Zarqawi — and other terrorists have ramped up their campaign of car bombings, homicide attacks, shootings and kidnappings.
While the audiotape hasn't yet been confirmed to be from al-Zarqawi, U.S. government analysts said that the speaker's voice resembles that of the terror leader, according to a U.S official. The views expressed in the tape are also consistent with those of the terror leader, the official said.
The speaker on the tape argues that deaths of Muslims in insurgent violence are justified if it is impossible to avoid such bloodshed, saying the call to holy war is too important to be hindered.
"This right (the jihad) is justified by Islam even if it resulted in the death of a number of Muslims who happen to be in the place during the fighting for one reason or another, provided that it is not possible to avoid them and the difficulty in distinguishing between them and the infidel military fighters."
The speaker also calls Iraqi leaders infidels, while condemning Shiite Muslims (search) for collaborating with Christian U.S. forces and oppressing the Sunnis.
The message accuses Shiite militias operated by parties that are now part of the government of assassinating Sunni Muslim figures, kidnapping Sunni women and seizing mosques since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago.
"These hateful brigades ... deported Sunni families from the south, killed hundreds of the Sunnis, took over the mosques, and turned them to bastions of apostasy," he said.
Shiites are "collaborating with the worshippers of the cross," who invaded Iraq, corrupted the country and violated holy sites, the speaker said. "This is all taking place under of a state of apostasy among the rulers of this nation."
Gen. John Abizaid (search), the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said the tape — whether authentic or not — is nothing new.
"I have no response to it," said Abizaid. "It's the same old thing. He says that it's OK to kill Muslims and that's it's an Islamic duty, and he's incorrect. That's not true."
Gen. Richard Myers (search), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the tape only goes to show al-Zarqawi's complete lack of "moral foundation."
"If you look at the statistics over the last couple of weeks, a lot of Iraqi men, women and children have died because this violent extremist is trying to convince others to do it. ... It's an outrage. "
A senior U.S. military official said lieutenants of al-Zarqawi — and perhaps al-Zarqawi himself — held a meeting in neighboring Syria about a month ago to plan an intensified series of car bombings and other attacks throughout Iraq.
There were 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far in May, compared with 25 such attacks in the capital in all of 2004, said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
"He said he's trying to provoke a civil war. He's trying to keep freedom from happening in the Middle East," Myers told reporters.
FOX News' Bret Baier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.